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Compromise and Concealment-The Road to Defeat, Part 5

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Some libertarians suggest that it is incorrect strategy for libertarians, both in the ideological and political arenas, to maintain the consistency and purity of libertarian principles. They recommend that libertarians “reach out” to mainstream America by watering down our principles. They say that otherwise libertarians are apt to be perceived as “too radical.”

Well, I hate to burst anybody’s bubble, but … we libertarians are radical! We are calling for the dismantling, not the reform, of every single socialistic welfare state program and every single governmental regulatory device. We are calling for the permanent shutdown of every nonessential function of government. We are fighting to restore liberty to our land and, in the process, lead the world to the highest reaches of freedom ever seen by man.

Do we accomplish this by watering down our principles? Perish the thought! Throughout history, people have responded to ideas, ideals, and noble principles. Magna Carta. The Petition of Right. Habeas corpus. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. Freedom of the press. The right to assemble. The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The right of trial by jury.

Throughout the ages, there have been great awakenings, in which the populace rise above their everyday concerns and respond positively to grand and noble ideals. To be prepared to respond positively to this type of awakening, libertarians must continue to maintain the high standards that have characterized our cause for so long.

Do we wish to become like the conservatives? Look at their behavior. Who could find it admirable in any respect whatsoever? They preach “freedom, free enterprise, private property, and limited government.” Yet, in the attempt to be “respectable and mainstream,” they have embraced virtually every single socialistic program that leftists have sent down the pike and then have devoted their lives to getting control over the system.

Consider, for example, some of the leading Republicans.

There is Jack Kemp, who incessantly reminds us that we need to downsize government, cut taxes, and reduce spending. But what happened when he was offered the job of head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development? Lured by the prestige and power of bureaucratic office, he became a government central planner, using coercion to bring a “free-enterprise approach” to government housing. Not only that, but government spending for HUD increased dramatically during his tenure. And then, just before leaving office, Kemp gave a pay raise (with taxpayer monies) to his fellow bureaucratic HUD buddies.

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

Consider Lamar Alexander. Today, he will give speech after speech on why the federal Department of Education should be abolished. Yet he used to run the department! In other words, here is a conservative “free-enterpriser” who talks about “down-sizing government,” but when it came to participating in the fun and games of political power, prestige, influence, and central planning, all of a sudden, abolishing the department wasn’t that important anymore.

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

Consider Robert and Elizabeth Dole. They tell Americans, “We’re going to end the IRS as we know it.” Yet Mr. Dole is one the primary reasons that the IRS must terrorize and abuse the citizenry. For during his decades in office, Mr. Dole helped to build up America’s $1.7 trillion socialistic welfare state. When the tax-collecting branch of a government is charged with collecting that amount of money from the citizenry, it will always be terroristic and abusive despite such Republican campaign slogans as “We’re going to end the IRS as we know it.”

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

Consider George W. Bush. Like his father, he wouldn’t know an ideological principle if it hit him in the face. Political decisions are based on what is pragmatic.

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

Consider Steve Forbes, widely known as a “libertarian-oriented” conservative. When Forbes spoke to a large libertarian audience in Washington, D.C., last year (an audience he knew to be libertarian), he implicitly criticized the war on drugs:

And so by the early 1960s a lot of people said, If government can help us win two world wars, help alleviate the distress of the Depression, put men in space, lead the civil rights movement, why couldn’t government do a lot of other good things? And thus we got the War on Poverty, Jimmy Carter’s moral equivalent of war on the energy crisis, and the war on drugs. War, real or metaphorical, has been the motif of this century. [Emphasis added.]

Yet a few months later, in what might have been an attempt to curry favor with a conservative group – the Conservative Coalition – Forbes publicly announced that he was actually in favor of the war on drugs. Like his conservative buddy Bill Bennett (who served proudly as the United States government’s drug czar, helped to foment the hysteria over assault weapons, and breathed new life into the gun-regulation movement), Forbes publicly proclaimed that the governmental war on drugs must continue.

In the olden days, Indians had an apt phrase for this type of conduct: “speaking with a forked tongue.”

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

Moreover, when was the last time you heard any Republican calling for the dismantling of the entire socialistic welfare state and regulated society – that is, a permanent shutdown of all nonessential functions of government?

No Republican would ever call for anything so radical. Like the British soldiers in the movie The Bridge On the River Kwai, Republicans are too devoted to preserving that which they have helped to build.

“Libertarian-oriented” Forbes’s idea is a “flat” income tax of 17% to replace America’s graduated income tax. Under Forbes’s plan, the socialistic welfare state and regulated society do not need to be dismantled because his “flat” tax will raise the necessary government tax revenues through “growth.” In other words, the United States is not faced with the choice with which other socialist countries are faced. We can save our beloved socialistic programs simply by “flattening” America’s income tax.

How easy! Americans don’t need to dismantle the welfare state and regulated society. They just need to lower and reduce the number of income tax rates. Socialism in America can live and prosper forever. Forbes might well go down in history as the person who came up with a “capitalist” plan to save socialism. All we need is the “hope” that there will be “growth” so that socialism will finally be given the “opportunity” it deserves.

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

Moreover, Forbes’s characterization of his proposal as a “flat” income tax is almost as deceptive as his implicit criticism of the drug war at that Washington libertarian gathering. In actuality, Forbes is not truly calling for a “flat” income tax. His plan says that anyone falling under a certain income level will not have to pay any income taxes. So, in truth, Forbes is calling not for a “flat” income tax but rather for a steeply graduated income tax with two rates: 0% and 17%. One can only wonder how many minutes it would take for both Democrats and Republicans to reward supporters with more and more tax-code special treatment.

Most shameful, of course, is the deep, ardent commitment that the Republican ilk have for the national income tax and the socialistic welfare state that the income tax funds. The details always vary. Democrats might want more income tax rates. The Republicans might want fewer ones. But both Remocrats and Depublicans are committed to saving such socialistic and paternalistic devices as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public housing, education grants and loans, farm subsidies, and the war on drugs. That’s why they will always remain committed to massive amounts of taxation in some form or another.

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

Why don’t Republicans simply call for the repeal of the national income tax, as we libertarians do? Repeal? That would mean that $1.3 trillion of a $1.7 trillion government budget would be gone. All of that money would remain in people’s pockets as private capital rather than being sent to the federal government as political loot. How could Forbes, Kemp, Bennett, Dole, Alexander, Bush, and their comrades fund their beloved programs: the war on drugs, the war on illiteracy, public housing, educational grants and loans, farm subsidies, foreign wars, and on and on and on?

The fact is that they would not be able to do so. That is why, despite all of the tax-reform rhetoric we get from both Democrats and Republicans, especially during every campaign season, the American people will never be free from oppressive and burdensome taxation in some form or another under Remocrats or Depublicans. The $1.7 trillion to fund the war on drugs and other aspects of the paternalistic welfare state will always need to be extracted from the pockets of the American people.

Thus the real problem is not exorbitant taxation. The real problem is the deep commitment that both Democrats and Republicans have to $1.7 trillion in government spending. Even with control of both houses of Congress, Republicans fought fiercely for increased government spending … and then bragged about how they were able to achieve it. And they have vowed never to permit the nonessential departments and agencies of the U.S. government to be shut down again – not even temporarily, much less permanently.

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

And when was the last time you heard any Republican take responsibility for the evil and immorality they have brought to our nation with their beloved wars on drugs, illiteracy, immigrants, poverty, bigotry, and so forth? Why, holding that word – “responsibility” – in front of a Republican is like holding a cross in the face of a vampire. The truth is that conservatives won’t take responsibility for the destruction they have wrought on our nation because, like leftists, they insist on being judged by their good intentions rather than by the actual results of their conduct.

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

And when was the last time you heard this Republican ilk talking about such moral principles as “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” Do you think any of them is ever going to stand in front of the Christian Coalition and say, “It is wrong to steal. It is a violation of the Ten Commandments. Therefore, we must call for the immediate repeal of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, and all other forms of political plunder”? Moral principles don’t matter to conservatives when they are being violated by government, their political god. What matters to conservatives is “being credible and mainstream and getting control over the political loot” while they preach morality to everyone else.

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

When was the last time you heard Republicans condemn the gassing and burning at Waco and the shootings at Ruby Ridge? Don’t hold your breath.

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

And how do these Remocrats and Depublicans continue to get elected? By promising goodies to the voters with their own money! Here in Virginia, we have a perfect example of this type of shameless conduct. Both candidates for governor – Democrat and Republican – promised, if elected, to give every student a $2,000 “free” grant for college if he maintained at least a “B” average. The grant would be “free” because, you got it, “growth” would pay for it.

Is that what we want libertarians to become?

We libertarians, both in the ideological and political arenas, must stand our ground with our principles. As our fellow citizens discover our American heritage of libertarianism – as they discover the life of the lie that leftists and conservatives have encouraged them to live – as they seek the truth – they will reject the Democratic-Republican paradigm of political paternalism and plunder and join up with us libertarians in achieving what will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting events in the history of man: the restoration of American liberty.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.